Why Today We Are In the Golden Age of Flying

Many harken back to the period of about 1945 to 1975 as the “Golden Age of Flying.” I say, “au contraire” – today (right now) things are much better for fliers. Here are ten reasons why:

1. It’s way faster. In the 1940s, an average intercontinental flight had at least a 12 layovers in airpots that offered little more than a snack bar. Now, you can fly from Los Angeles all the way to Sydney, Australia non stop.

2. You won’t smell like an ashtray when you land. Airplane cabins used to be smokier than the air in a casino until lighting up on planes was finally banned in 1980.

3. Flying is actually cheaper. According to the Department of Transportation airfares are about as low as they’ve ever been (excluding 2009) when adjusted for inflation. Airlines for America reports the inflation-adjusted fares fell from about $442 in 1979 (which is when airlines deregulated) to about $275 in 2014 — a nearly 38% drop.

4. You can find airfares on your own. It takes less than a minute to check the costs of dozens of airlines for any given city pair and dates. You can go to kayak.com on your computer and check every airline but Southwest. So, by checking two websites (southwest.com and kayak.com) you’ll find the cost for every airline in the world. Imagine trying to book a flight even just 20 years ago when there was no internet — you had to call the airline or physically visit its office. And comparison shopping could only be done by a travel agent, who would have to look through each airline’s printed schedule. A travel agent is still your best bet for complicated international travel.

5. Today’s airports are far more enjoyable places to spend layovers. Many airports now have shopping malls. Or, with your computer you can visit facebook, play games or watch movies.

6. You can travel in comfortable clothes. Many people lament the loss of being required to dress up (like you were going to church) but I, for one, can’t imagine wearing a suit and tie on a transcontinental flight. If you aren’t old enough to remember, there was a time when you had to fly in formal attire, but you can now wear pretty much whatever you want on a plane.

7. You are far less likely to lose your luggage. Thanks to improved technology, the number of mishandled bags fell 61%, from 18.88 bags per thousand passengers in 2007 to 7.3 bags per thousand passengers in 2014 according to the International Air Transport Association. That’s less than a 1% chance you’ll lose your bag. But if you’re paranoid, there are now plenty of gadgets that will help you track your luggage in case the airline does screw up.

8. Luggage has gotten smarter. One of those gadgets helping protect your bag is, your bag itself. There’s been a rise in the production of smart luggage. You can now get a bag that weighs itself, tracks itself and will even charge your cell phone.

9. You don’t even need to check a bag. Lot’s of people now fly with only a carry-on. And, you can also just wear a jacket that is a bag. Travel jackets have in excess of 30 pockets. The only problem is finding the right pocket where you’ve put something. Or use an app, like DUFL, that will deliver your pressed clothes to your hotel before you even arrive.

10. There are lots of ways to entertain yourself on a plane. Fliers in the 1950s were stuck with almost no way to keep busy. Not long ago airlines showed only one movie. Now, if you’re flying international, you have dozens to choose from. And, yes, there’s Wi-Fi. Nearly all airlines now provide some form of in-flight internet. Some airlines are even starting to provide fliers with free Wi-Fi.

Added bonuses you can get: Boarding passes sent to your phone, luggage tags you can print at home and security lines bypasses by signing up for memberships with Global Entry and/or TSA PreCheck.

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Flight delays and cancellations can happen at any time of the year, but in winter, they are sometimes monumental.  And it may be sunny where you are; however, bad weather somewhere else could lead to a delay or cancellation at your airport.  Your plane, the crew scheduled to be on it, or an airport where you are scheduled to land could be storm shrouded. Or your aircraft or crew could have been delayed by poor weather in between other airports. Or there could be a line of thunderstorms blocking flight paths.

What is the airline’s responsibility?

An airline must put a passenger on the next flight that has an open seat.  That is really their only obligation, outside of a possible refund.  These days, most flights are booked to full or nearly full capacity.  And during holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, of course, the “next available flight” could be days away, depending on the scope of the disruption.

Does the airline owe you a refund?

If your flight is canceled and you decide not to try and find a seat on another flight, you are entitled to a refund for the unused portion of your itinerary.  If you continue with your travel, you are not entitled to a refund, regardless of a delay or cancellation.  The airline is also not obligated to provide you with compensation for food or lodging because of a delay or cancellation.

If a delay is the airline’s fault – for example, a mechanical delay – you might be offered some sort of compensation, but the carrier is not legally bound to do so.

If the cancellation is weather-related, you are unlikely to receive any compensation.  And remember, weather problems can be far broader than what you see in your local area.

What do you do?

#1- Be proactive, purchase travel insurance.  Basic Travel insurance costs $30 to $40 per person, but if your flight is delayed or cancelled due to weather the airline is not responsible for additional hotel costs or other expenses that may be associated with delays. Travel insurance can not only help by paying for a hotel room, but also may help get you on a different airline that may have availability.  Columbus Travel (800-373-3328) can help you get the right coverage, even if you purchased your airline ticket on the internet or by calling the airline.

#2- Register for flight alerts.  The earlier you know there’s a problem, the more time you have to find other alternatives.  This is a service that all airlines offer, and they will notify you as far in advance as possible that you may need to change flights.  By using these services you will have better choices of alternate flights.

#3- Stay calm.  Airlines do their best to reaccommodate each passenger delayed due to weather.  Tell yourself to “chill” when dealing with the airline representatives.  The weather is not their fault and yelling and being demanding won’t get you anywhere.  Treat them with respect and you will be treated with respect and find them more willing to help you.

#4- Be ready to change plans ahead of time.  Pay attention to the weather, and if you discover conditions are going to be bad, check your airline’s website to see if they have enacted a flexible rebooking policy.  Many airlines do so in poor weather.  Waivers allow fliers ticketed to certain airports to make a change to their itineraries with no penalty.  Also, if you can fly a day or two earlier or later, it may be worth changing your ticket to move your travel away from the time of the storm.  Or, if you want to postpone your trip altogether, the airlines sometimes waive the change fee and give you the option of using the value of your ticket toward a future flight.

#5- Consider alternate airports.  If you and a storm are both headed for Boston, will the storm also hit Providence and/or Manchester?   If JFK in New York is fogged in, how about LaGuardia, Newark, Hartford or even Philadelphia?  If you can’t get into San Francisco, what about Oakland or San Jose?

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Airport Security – Getting Through Quickly!

Have you ever arrived at the security checkpoint only to discover a very long line? Hopefully those days are coming to an end. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is moving toward a more risk based assessment of passengers rather than screening every passenger the same way. If you have traveled in the past two years you may have noticed the TSA PreCheck lines which offer expedited screening to certain passengers. If you have traveled in the past year you may have been randomly chosen to go through the TSA PreCheck line.

What is the TSA PreCheck line? This is an expedited screening where passengers do not have to remove belts, shoes, lap tops or compliant liquids from bags. Generally, passengers only need to go through a metal detector rather than the full body scanner. Due to this expedited screening the lines moves much faster and you can often be through in a few short minutes.

How do you qualify for the TSA PreCheck program? The TSA determines this based on a risk assessment of each passenger. The more they know about you the more likely you are to qualify for the PreCheck line. There are several trusted traveler programs you can participate in offered by the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security that will qualify you for the PreCheck program. Two of the most popular programs are Global Entry and enrollment in the TSA PreCheck program. There are enrollment centers at several airport and off airport locations for both of these programs.

Global Entry is a program that gives you access to PreCheck lines plus it gives you expedited lines through U.S. customs and immigration when arriving from a foreign destination. To enroll fill out an application online. After a background check you will have an interview with an immigration officer where you will be finger printed. The cost is $100 and Global Entry is valid for 5 years. For more information about global entry you can visit: http://www.cbp.gov/global-entry/about.

Direct Enrollment to the TSA PreCheck program is similar to Global Entry. You fill out an application online or at an enrollment center. After a background check you are interviewed and finger printed. After you are approved you are eligible for the PreCheck program. The cost is $80 and it is valid for 5 years. For more information about TSA PreCheck enrollment visit: http://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck.

If you participate in these programs you will be given a Known Traveler Number (KTN). You enter this number in all of your flight reservations to qualify for the PreCheck lines. Having a Known Traveler Number does not guarantee you will get PreCheck, but it gives you the highest chance of qualifying.

You can qualify for PreCheck lines in other ways as well. Active duty military can put their DOD identification number in the Known Traveler field in airline tickets. If you are part of a frequent flyer program your airline may randomly choose you to participate in the program based on your travel history. If you are over 75 you will most likely be chosen for PreCheck. Also, on a case by case basis based on a risk assessment of your destination, time of day, etc. you may be randomly chosen for the PreCheck lines.

For more information about TSA PreCheck visit: http://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck/what-tsa-precheck

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What if your Flight is Canceled or Delayed?

The USDOT has recently introduced some rules and regulations regarding Airline passenger rights.  These protect customers in extreme cases of delay and flight cancellations. However, most changes affecting customers do not fall under these new DOT regulations and each airline has developed their own policy.

Know your airlines policies – What are your rights if:

  • Your flight is canceled for mechanical reasons
  • Your flight is canceled for weather or other reasons beyond the airlines’ control
  • Your flight is overbooked and you are involuntarily denied boarding

AirfareWatchdog.com has compiled a list of U.S. based airlines and their policies for each of these questions. For a list of your rights visit http://www.airfarewatchdog.com/blog/18753748/a-guide-to-air-passenger-rights/!

courtesy of: underconsideration.com

courtesy of: underconsideration.com


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It’s almost like an Alaska blitzkrieg!

Alaska Airlines has apparently decided to move into Salt Lake City International Airport in a big way.  Meanwhile, their invasion is on the heals of Southwest Airlines downgrading its presence in a significant way.  All destinations from SLC have had service drastically reduced, or in some cases eliminated by Southwest.  To get to Boise on one of their fair airplanes, for example, you have to go through Denver, Las Vegas or Oakland.  It’s also interesting to note that Alaska is now touting itself as “the low fare leader,” a moniker that once belonged to Southwest.  Get information about those low fares from any Columbus Travel Agent, where you can find “the best deals on the planet.”

Since the merger with Airtran Southwest has actually been focusing on the Southeastern United States, along with Mexico and the Caribbean.  They have reduced flights from Salt Lake City significantly.  For example, they now have only three nonstops a day from SLC to Los Angeles, and their other flights to LAX stop in Las Vegas or involve a change of planes in Oakland, Phoenix or even Denver.

The real inside story :

Behind the big push from Alaska Airlines into Salt Lake City is a story involving Delta Airlines.

Alaska’s home base is Seattle, and Delta (with its Northwest merger) has decided to make Seattle a major hub with a focus on travel to Asia.  They have also instigated a huge push for corporate travel, offering big discounts and perks for using Delta or one of its travel partners, and punishing those corporations with fewer perks and Skymiles and higher prices if  that company uses other airlines.  The complicating factor is that Alaska and Delta still have a codeshare agreement, but regardless, Alaska apparently wants to retaliate for the Delta move to take over Seattle.  The latest edition of the their website (www.alaskaair.com) says “Alaska Airlines is pleased to announce that we’re bringing even more flights and low fares to Salt Lake City.  Explore More with new nonstop service . . .” etc.

What is the great air fare story?

Alaska began service between Salt Lake and Seattle with two nonstops in each direction on  April 4, 2013, but it adds a third this June.  Next month, they will also have two nonstops daily to and from Portland, San Diego and Las Vegas, plus once a day nonstops to and from Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and Boise.

The round trip prices for those flights are the lowest we have seen in several years:  Los Angeles and San Francisco $158; San Diego, San Jose and Portland $178; Boise $130; Las Vegas $138.  And, if you want, they will give you one-way tickets for exactly half of those fares.  Fantastic!

But wait, there’s more:

To add to the thrill of getting these low fares, this has pushed other air carriers into also lowering fares to those destinations.  In the case of Delta, which has service to five airports in the Los Angeles area (LAX, Long Beach, Burbank, Ontario and John Wayne in Orange County), round trip tickets to all but SNA (John Wayne) are under $200.  You can get fares to Long Beach for $150.  Unbelievable!

In addition, these low prices to the West Coast have opened up places like Hawaii and Alaska to savings.  Round trip fares from Salt Lake City to Honolulu on Alaska Airlines are down to $658 – $96 less than on Delta Airlines.  And, by the way, $658 is only $10 more than the roundtrip fare from Los Angeles.  Meanwhile, Delta’s rountrip tickets to Anchorage are available for as low as $420 in September; during the summer, $900, but on Jet Blue Airlines or Alaska, $634.  Superb!

If you want to book one of these great air fares, you can do it by going to the airline company’s website or kayak.com, which is an aggregator.

For anything more complicated, such as a ticket to an international destination, I would suggest using an experienced travel agent you can actually talk to, like at Columbus Travel (800-373-3328).  Good agents can check airfares through many different connecting airports, as well as employ more than one airline where connections are involved.  And Columbus Travel Agents are experienced and well qualified to help.

Viva la competencia!

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Airline News, Info & Oddities

Question:  Why was Delta Airlines selling tickets for as much as 90% less for a few hours?

Answer:  In short, somebody goofed!  We think the tech who entered the fares on the Delta website beginning at 5:00 a.m. Mountain Time on December 26th either put the decimal at the wrong point or was perhaps told to reduce the fares by the amount he or she entered as the actual total cost.  Cudos to Delta for honoring all fares booked.  But, snooze and you lose – the fun ended when Delta discovered what was going on less than three hours later.

Question:  Why do airfares constantly change?

Answer:  Because modern technology makes it possible, airlines make changes for all sorts of reasons – lower or higher demand at certain seasonal times of year and on different days of the week; because computer projections indicate abnormal amounts of seats sold; to take competitive advantage; to send a message to another airline, etc., etc.  No airline wants a plane to take off without having every seat sold at the highest amount for which they think they can sell it.

Question:  Why is just about every flight over-booked?

Answer:  Airlines have a history of how many no-shows book tickets on every flight; and therefore, book additional customers to insure that each flight is full.  However, this a wonderful opportunity for fliers who are flexible – they will offer great incentives if you are willing to give up your seat.

Question:  What is meant by “subject to change without notice?”

Answer:  This phrase is often used to describe lots of different travel expenses, and it means exactly what it says.  Since changes can be made so readily with today’s technology, you cannot guarantee the cost of just about anything until it is actually paid for.  So, if your travel agent tells you the cost of something and you want to think about it or talk to someone else about it, you must remember that it may not be the same price when you call her/him back.

Question:  Why do so many airlines have so many fees?

Answer:  In order to make more money.  Airlines took in 27-billion dollars in fees in 2012, and when they tally up the total for 2013 it will probably be close to 50% more than that.  They have found that cost-concious customers almost always go for the lowest priced ticket; so, by adding more fees for various services – checked luggage, overweight luggage, preferred seat assignments, changing a ticket, booking with a human ticket agent, meals, etc., etc., etc. – they can raise the cost without actually raising the fare.

Question:  I heard that aircraft may have prereclined seats.  What does that mean, and why do they want to do it?

Answer:  It’s a seat that is permanently positioned in what has been a reclined position – so, you can’t move it upright.  The New York Times reports that some airlines are turning to “prereclined” seats to avoid passengers bumping each other when they put their seats back.  They quote a spokesperson from Spirit Airlines saying, “Customers appreciate the fact that there is no longer interference from the seat in front of you moving up and down throughout the flight,”  The Times also points out that this practice also allows Spirit to install more seats per plane.

Question:  Is it true that the Transportation Security Administration is planning to have armed police at airports?

Answer:  Not yet; but, it is true that Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., has suggested that armed police should monitor areas within 300 feet of security checkpoints at airports, and her recommendation is backed by some police unions.  Armed security in airports are pretty much the standard in other countries of the world; and, by the way, they seem to have fewer security problems.

Note:  For info on what would be the cost of a good or not-so-good airfare, as well as the best time to buy, see our earlier blog dated Nov. 2:  When Is the Best Time To Purchase an Airline Ticket?

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Snooze and you lose is a reality if you hear about a low price for air travel. Hear of a bargain and you’d better get your tickets pronto because that low fare probably won’t be available in a week. For example, recently American Airlines was selling round trip fares to Boston from Salt Lake City for $171. A week later the cost was $446. Two days after that, $300.

So what happened? Can’t they make up their mind? Well . . . no.

Any number of things could have occurred. American may have been sending a message to another airline – perhaps someone else may have had a sale into Boston and they wanted to tell them to knock it off. It could have been that American might have seen lower than average sales into Boston and wanted to fill up its flights. Or maybe someone made a mistake (i.e.: perhaps entered a “1” instead of a “3” or “4” as the first digit in listing the price).

Whatever the reason, if you get a Hot Deal Update from Columbus Travel, or hear on radio or television about a fantastic bargain, you should purchase your tickets immediately.

And what a time it is to go to Boston! The Red Sox are in the World Series, New England is ablaze with glorious fall foliage, and after thanksgiving, Massachusetts is breathtakingly picturesque. The entire landscape offers a plethora of lithographs as “colored engravings for the people.” by Currier and Ives.

But I digress.

There are other ways to find cheap tickets. Probably the best is get what are called “tour operator fares,” bundled with other travel commodities such as hotel stays and/or car rentals. Utah’s leading travel agency, Columbus Travel, is a tour operator, and also works with many other tour operators, who are allowed to sell lower than list price air travel as part of a package. I’ve seen packages including hotel stays and car rentals plus air for the same or even less than the lowest listed air fare price.

However, tour operators don’t have such deals to everywhere, because they only operate where large quantities of tourists are headed. If you are planning a trip to Minot, North Dakota, Log Cabin, Texas, or Horse Cave, Kentucky, forget anything that might involve a tour group – they just aren’t on very many bucket lists. On the other hand, Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Walt Disney World, Disneyland, San Francisco, and most certainly Hawaii, as well as lots of other well-traveled places are indeed tour operator destinations.

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What’s your dream vacation destination?

Everyone’s got a destination on their bucket list. Or maybe just a favorite place you keep “trying” to get to. Share with us what your destination is. And more importantly, give us the pleasure of helping you cross it off your list.

Bon voyage!

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Salt Lake City travel agencies: Best airlines

courtesy of: underconsideration.com

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 637 million people flew on airplanes during 2011. With so many people flying on hundreds of different airlines daily, how does one choose? As the most trusted of the Salt Lake City travel agencies, Columbus Travel has put together a list of the best airlines to help customers decide when traveling.


The premier Salt Lake City travel agency unites you with United Airlines

This airline has been serving travelers since 1926. Just last November, Continental Airlines and United merged to make one respectable company. United employs more than 85,000 employees and has 700 mainline aircraft. They offer nearly 5,656 flights a day to 376 airports on six continents. During 2011, United carried more traffic than any other airline with 142 million passengers on 2 million flights. Columbus Travel, as the top of the Salt Lake City travel agencies, have no concerns when sending our customers on flights with this trusted airline.

The best Salt Lake City travel agency suggests Southwest

The airline known worldwide for its free baggage policy serves roughly 69 cities and 88 million passengers annually. In order to keep its travelers happy, Southwest has introduced a new airplane model this month. The Boeing 737-800 is one third larger than the fleet they’ve been using, fitting 175 passengers. It’s also more accommodating for passengers with a quieter cabin, more comfortable seating and LED reading and ceiling lighting. Columbus Travel knows our customers will have no issues with Southwest, especially since they had the lowest complaint rate in 2010 with only .27 per 100,000 passengers.

Getting the best care with the best Salt Lake City travel agency and Delta

Delta, the world renowned airline, is our top choice for multiple reasons. One of their major hubs sits at our very own airport, Salt Lake City International, making flights in and out of town easy to schedule. The red, white and blue company also serves more than 160 million passengers a year taking them to 341 destinations in 61 countries on six continents. Their fleet of more than 700 aircraft offers over 13,000 daily flights. It was also named the most admired airline worldwide of 2011 by Fortune Magazine. Another reason we, the most faithful of the Salt Lake City travel agencies, use Delta is because they care about the customer. Delta is currently investing more than $2 billion through 2013 to improve its airport facilities, services and technology to enhance the overall experience for its customers.

With our country’s airlines handling nearly 1,745,205 travelers daily, Columbus Travel, the most used of the Salt Lake City travel agencies, knows which airlines are the best to put our customers on. To book a trip with us and one of these premier airlines stop by our office or call today at 1-800-373-3328.

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Airline Seating
The airline companies are charging fees for everything.  Airlines refer to it as “Ala Carte Service,” and they say it’s what passengers want.  No one has made a scientific survey of passengers, but I personally have not spoken to a single one who says he or she wants it, and all of them refer to it by various names from “gouging” on up to words that should not be printed.  Usually, spin-doctors can get someone to accept what they are saying, but this spin appears to be bought by no one other than airline executives.  In fact, if you happen to enjoy the fees that air carriers are adding on to the price of your ticket, please send me a picture of yourself and I’ll see if we can’t do a special feature on you.
Here’s what’s going on.
Delta Airlines, for example, reserves the first 20 rows of its planes for Medallion customers.  This means that if you haven’t flown at least 25,000 miles or 30 air segments with Delta or one of its partners this year, the closest you will be sitting to the front of the plane is row 21.
United and American airlines offer more leg room in the first ten rows.  They call it “economy plus” and you must be a very frequent flier or pay extra money to be there.  Other “ala carte” seating features on the various air carriers include aisle or window seats, as well as bulkhead or exit row seats (because of the extra leg room).
What this means is that on every airline but Southwest, if you get an advance seating assignment and you aren’t either one of their really frequent fliers or willing to pay extra money, you will be sitting in a middle seat.  This is true even if you are traveling as a family.  That’s right!  If their are two or ten of you and you want advance seat assignments, you will all be sitting apart from one another but between two people you don’t know.  The only way you might get an aisle or window or bulkhead or exit row seat is by not getting an advance assignment and then showing up at the airport for your flight with hopes that some of those choicer spots haven’t been purchased.  In other words, if you don’t pay, it’s a roll of the dice.
Even Southwest Airlines is now charging if you want to board with the “A Group.”  Southwest does not make seat assignments, but on a first-come-first-served basis they put you in the A, B or C Group, one through 40 in each group, and then allow passengers to board in that order.  You can print your own boarding pass by using the internet up to 24-hours in advance of your Southwest flight, but people who use that airline a lot tell me that even if you go for that boarding pass exactly 24-hours to the second ahead of time, the best you will do is land in the B Group.  That means at least 40 people have paid to get into the A Group.
So, add another to the list of extra fees you pay on top of the price of your airline ticket.  You already have the evil fuel surcharge, the talk to a live person fee, checked baggage fee, change your ticket fee, there’s no such thing as a free lunch fee – available “ala carte” on all airlines but Southwest.  Yes, add to that list the “I got a good seat fee.”
By Don Shafer


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